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‘Where’s the Promised Support?” Mpondoland Farmers Say Cannabis Reform Threatens Their Livelihoods

Mabuyane ‘should have announced financial support for rural cannabis growers’

The Eastern Cape Chamber of Business (ECCB) says its disappointed that provincial Premier Oscar Mabuyane did not use SOPA to announce firm plans to support rural cannabis farmers. Instead Mbuyane said he would set up an advisory panel to guide the provincial cannabis policy to look at ways of including traditional growers. ECCB Secretary General Andile Nontso said growers in the informal sector cannot afford SAHPRA licenses and that Mabuyane could have announced the issuing of free licenses.

“We hear that a licence costs anything from R25 000, yet those people who’ve been growing dagga for many years don’t have [that kind of] money. We thought that, by now, there’d be a clear [indication] of where people will be trained for the processing of cannabis,” he told City Press on 19 February 2022.

 

Nontso said indigenous growers were afraid of losing their livelihoods because “many people will suddenly become interested in the industry, now that it has been formalised, compete with them and edge them out of the market”. He said priority should be given to the ordinary people who have been growing the plant for a long time. He said processing centres would have to be set up in Mpondoland, close to the farmers.

“This cannabis project is a game-changer for the Mpondo people – not for the people of Sandton. Let the people of Ngqeleni, Port St Johns and the entire Mpondoland region benefit from this resource that is grown on their land”.

 

Traditional growers fear they are being sidelined by cannabis reform

Cannabis grower Nkosi Gwebingqele Gwadiso of Amakhonjwayo in Ngqeleni says many villagers fear being left out of cannabis reform. He was quoted in City Press as saying that although government may have good intentions, it had not communicated them to indigenous growers who have relied on the profits of the plant for decades to feed their families, educate their children and earn a living. 

Gwadiso said:  “This is the concern of amaMpondo and it’s a reality. First, our people don’t have the equipment that’s being envisaged [to harvest the dagga] because these markets will have a particular standard that they’ve developed and want us to meet.

 

“For this reason, it will be difficult for the ordinary person in the village to stay in business without government’s assistance”

He told City Press that he and his fellow villagers had heard that, “according to these new standards, for example, growers will be expected to use hydroponics, something people in rural areas cannot afford, as they have been growing cannabis in the open veld and their gardens using the most basic tools”.

Gwadiso said: “Our people don’t have money for that kind of infrastructure. I hope government will take into consideration the ways in which amaMpondo and South Africans originally used to grow cannabis and use that as its basis, instead of introducing new ways that will simply shut us out of the industry”.

 

Some areas, such as the Mpondoland towns of Libode, Ngqeleni, Port St Johns, Lusikisiki, Ntabankulu and Mbizana in the Eastern Cape, are known to be fertile grounds for growing cannabis and communities have been doing so, albeit illegally, for decades. 

Yazini Tetyana, EFF provincial chairperson, told City Press  it was disappointing that government was still talking about regulations, despite having made the decision to formalise the industry a long time ago. 

“We need to allow our people to find ways of surviving. That’s why the success of the cannabis project is so important,” he said. 

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